Tuesday, 5 February 2019
JobPath Programme: Motion [Private Members]
I thank the people who made the effort to come and sit in the Visitors Gallery this evening and listen to the debate. Many of them have worked extensively on this issue since it was first rolled out in 2015. Many work in the services that actually do work, such as the adult guidance services and the local employment services, LES, the length and breadth of the State. They are the people I listen to, as well as those who walk in and out of my constituency office daily to talk about JobPath.
Sometimes I think Fine Gael lives in a parallel universe. That has hit home and been proven correct here tonight. I listened to the Minister, Deputy Regina Doherty, who has cut her losses and run - and I hope she does the same to this JobPath programme - make some sort of accusation but every single person who spoke in here this evening, bar the two Ministers, have given one example after another of the catastrophe that is JobPath's impact on people throughout the State.
I do not sit at home and dream up these examples. I am sure that every other Deputy who spoke this evening is in the same position. These are real people who have had negative experiences at the hands of Turas Nua and Seetec. The Minister actually sounded like Comical Ali as she tried to defend the indefensible. I listen to people like those sitting in the Public Gallery. I also listen to people working in the likes of the local employment service. These people are dealing with the fallout of JobPath because, after 12 months, many of the 206,000 people who were referred to those providers and who do not get a job end up being referred back to the LES, which is where they should have been in the first place. I also listen to the people in the Intreo offices who are now actively speaking out against this service and saying that it was a massive error.
I listened to the comments from the Labour Party who, quite interestingly, said tonight that this was an experiment which has failed. It should be borne in mind that it was a Labour Minister, Deputy Burton, who implemented this programme. She was a co-author of it with Fine Gael and presided over it in its early days. The Labour Party now says that the experiment has failed. The ideology of privatisation presided over by this Government and its predecessors has failed. The Government needs to be big enough to admit that. It should cut its losses and pull out now.
Unfortunately, what we have got this evening has been spin and more spin. It has been a continuation of the spin machine in whose use Fine Gael is an expert. To look at the figures the Government is trying to spin, it has said the €160 million which has been spent on this failed experiment equates to less than €790 for each of the 206,000 participants. That is absolute nonsense. I will put my spin on it. We know from the figures that have been given to the Comptroller and Auditor General that, of the 206,000 people who have been referred to JobPath, only 17,100 have been in sustained employment for 52 weeks or more. I can spin those figures. For every job that has been sustained for 52 weeks or more, €9,356 has been spent. All it is is spin. I deal with facts and reality.
We know the impact this has had on the likes of the community employment, CE, schemes. As we stand here this evening, there are more than 1,990 vacancies in CE schemes the length and breadth of the State. It should be borne in mind that these are schemes that work. They keep our communities together and ensure that work that should really be carried out by local authorities is done. There are 1,990 vacancies in those schemes. The supervisors of these schemes say that these vacancies are there as a direct result of JobPath. They are the people to whom I listen.
This Government is hell-bent on the notion that "work first" is the solution, rather than a solution based on individuals' needs or circumstances. It believes in the fallacy that getting back into work is the solution to everything. We know that is not the case because the type of work into which the Government is forcing people is low-paid, precarious employment. More than 100,000 people are now working poor. We know that the type of employment the Government is forcing people to take is predominantly low-paid and precarious. The reality is that JobPath has failed dismally. It is a failed experiment and the Government needs to cut its losses. As one Deputy said, the Government's experiment is dead, it needs to take it out and bury it immediately.
I will conclude by focusing on the report into the LESs carried out by Indecon. There is a lot of concern around that Indecon report and particularly around one recommendation at the end which says that an open, public, competitive procurement model needs to be brought forward. Nobody has any problem with open procurement, but the LESs and I firmly believe that this lays the foundations to allow Turas Nua and Seetec to come in through the back door.
The House has spoken. The Government will lose this vote and needs to withdraw its amendment and support the motion. We need a commitment that when this scheme is done away with we will look at what will come next. What comes next needs to be shaped by the debate here tonight, which called for penalisation of people and payment by results, which have failed, to be done away with. We need to get back to what works - the CE schemes, the job clubs, the adult guidance services, and all the other schemes that actually work and benefit people. The Government will lose this vote. It needs to cut its losses, to bury this scheme, and to get back to what actually works for people and their individual needs.